Multitasking is a bit like sleep. We’ve been led to believe that doing it, or not in the case of sleep, makes us more productive and in turn, will make us more successful. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The less you sleep the less you’re able to function to your full potential and the more you multitask, well, the less you’re able to function to your full potential.
Here’s why and how multitasking is not a good thing and what you should do instead of juggling tasks to be on fire.
Multitasking reduces your focus
Although this seems counterintuitive as we think that we are more focused when we multitask, our brains aren’t equipped or evolved enough to take on more than one task at a time successfully. Trying to send an email while sat in a meeting might feel like you’re getting a lot done but in reality it’s going to take you more than twice the length of time to get anything out of each as your brain has to take time to refocus and catch up each time you switch your focus between tasks.
What to do instead: Focus on one thing at a time. Either send that email or be present in the meeting and take note. You’ll get a lot more done and in a shorter time, and get more out of each too.
It increases your stress levels
You know the feeling when you have too much to do? Your heart rate increases and you don’t know where to start. It may not always feel like it, but this is what happens when you multitask. As your brain isn’t equipped to do more than one thing at a time it starts to pump out adrenaline to give you a burst of energy to help in your quest to get more than one thing done at a time.
Not great for your body and not good for sleeping either!
What to do instead: Let your brain work in the way that it’s designed to. Doing one task at a time. That way you can keep your calm and get everything done in less time too.
If you want to have a lower IQ, multitask!
A study from the University of London found that the IQ of those people who multitask drops in the same way as it would if you’d stayed up all night. If you think that’s OK and don’t know the effects of not getting enough sleep read this!
But if that’s not enough to dissuade you the study goes onto say that,
“An IQ drop of 15 points for multitasking men, lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.”
Now my 8-year-old is pretty smart but not sure I’d want him to be in charge of our finances or to represent me in a meeting to make sure the important things get done.
What to do instead: Don’t be the 8 year old in the room, do one task at a time. (no offense to 8-year-olds intended!)
Your self-awareness and emotional intelligence plummets
Remember how I mentioned about sending emails in a meeting earlier? This is how your emotional intelligence and self-awareness plummets. Not being present in the current task with other people means you lose your emotional intelligence.
Trying to focus on two things at once takes you out of the present moment. You lose your self-awareness so you don’t think about how you come across to those people in the meeting as you type your email and pay them little attention. Why are you even attending the meeting? Why indeed?
What to do instead: Be in the present moment, pay attention to other people in the room, build relationships and in turn become more productive and successful
Doing more than one thing at a time slows you down
It takes much longer to complete two tasks at the same time than completing one and then moving onto the next one. Your brain takes time to move between two tasks as it has to refocus. So, when you multitask, constantly moving from one task to another slows you down.
What to do instead: List the tasks you need to complete in a logical order (for you) and then complete them consecutively, not concurrently.
You can make mistakes and miss the obvious things
When you’re not focused on one task at a time and move between two, you make mistakes. This is because you can miss details, some big, some tiny, as you refocus as you switch. Similar to not getting enough sleep.
What to do instead: I feel like a broken record here. Focus on one task at a time
We’re not good at multitasking at all
We seem to think that we’re great at multitasking. That it’s in our DNA and we’re only productive if we do more than one tasks at a time. I used to have this listed on my CV as a skill like it was something to brag about. BUT we’re not good at it. It stresses us out, makes us miss details and can make us think we’re better than we are.
I challenge you to time yourself to see how long it takes you to complete two tasks that you do often, one at a time. Once you’ve done that the next time you need to complete the same tasks do them at the same time, multitask your heart out. Which was more productive? You know the answer already.
What to do instead: I’m struggling to find ways to write the same sentence. Complete one task at a time.
Multitasking can be dangerous
I’m not talking about using your phone while drinking a cuppa, although many a cup of tea has been knocked over in such situations. I’m talking about using your phone whilst driving for example or walking along the street and crossing the road with your phone in hand. Or cycling, or… you get the picture. In these scenarios, it’s dangerous and can kill you or someone else.
What to do instead: ONE THING AT A TIME!
It may not always be possible NOT to multitask. Sometimes our attention needs to be pulled away to something else more important. But when you can and when you want to or need be at your most productive and safest, avoid multitasking. Don’t do it. Just don’t.